Márton Csillag Local Trains
Nimród Antal: Control (Kontroll)

37 Kbyte

Nimród Antal's introductory full-length feature film is at once a ride on the subconscious ghost train of post-communism and speeding on the multicoloured train of new Hungarian box-office films. The greatest virtue of Control is that it is an excellent blend of a usually absent speedy and graphic narrative with a strong and individual atmosphere - something also missing from Hungarian films.

The work of this writer-director who moved back from the States 13 years ago is a commercial film in the best sense of the word: its subject alone is designed to addresses the masses. Due to the film-makers' routine in videos and commercials eyes trained on TV channels will find it easily comprehensible, yet at the same time the viewers' repository of knowledge and experience in connection with metro rides is turned mercilessly inside out. The plot and magic of Control is based on the simple idea of leading the spectator into a familiar and despised location where creative imagination, joining forces with the comics of everyday routine situations, keeps offering new surprises. The most common events gain additional meaning in this inverted world, while unusual heroes carrying out unusual feats are born in the familiar-alien atmosphere of the metro - all conducted under the strict rules of film genres. From the moment the spectator gets onto the escalator with Enikő Eszenyi and reaches the "death platform", for an hour and a half he becomes a resident of the underground empire of neon lights and has a chance to get better acquainted with or even reassess his own image of the metro beyond the hoards of inspectors, caricaturised passengers, mottle-faced "guvnors" and alcoholic leaders of saints.


The image of the world of Control may appear both shocking and completely novel at first sight. Having seen however Nimród Antal's college diploma film, Insurance (1998), it comes as much less of a surprise, since, as far as the atmosphere and story are concerned, the director outlines in 31 minutes all that he now presents in a longer and more rounded variant. The heroes of Insurance are also protozoa who live on the periphery of society, individuals excluded and despised by "respectable people": they are professional crashers. Antal's pre-Control figures await for the commissions of law-breaking citizens in a dark office-cum-pub. Having reduced the customers' cars to smithereens with audacious professionalism, they hobble out from the ruins with bleeding skulls and collect their envelopes from the owners. This is insurance fraud at its peak and according to public opinion the profession of our heroes is just as despicable - though undoubtedly more manly and exciting - as the work of inspectors, the hunt for tormented passengers. The hero of Insurance (played by Győző Szabó) is a physically and spiritually burdened figure who, having visions before every crash of mutilated and groaning colleagues, is continuously battling with his own devil just like Control's Bulcsú. As the plot evolves the director dissolves tension with small colour genre pictures and reveals to us with the depths of the psyche of crashers. Sándor Badár, Zoltán Mucsi, Lajos Kovács and Csaba Pindroch (the future controllers) enliven the story with sad inserts, while the figure of Győző Szabó prepares for the most difficult deployment of his career. At the end of the film he staggers out liberated from the filthy alley, leaving behind him shudders, demons, a Lada broken to bits and the astonished János Derzsi.


Interestingly enough it is Béla Tarr's favourite Hungarian actor from whom the hero of Insurance takes leave and whom Bulcsú, the hero of Control, first encounters. The figure of János Derzsi serves as a link between the two related stories: it's as if the crash-specialist tired of the ugliness of the asphalt world had descended underground to continue his miserable life among the even stranger species of the inspector/homeless. Dressed in a leather coat and hooded sweater, Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi) - whose past is unknown to us - works in the capacity of a ticket controller at the head of his shoddy team, dispassionately tolerating the hatred of passengers. Despite the daily beatings and humiliations he's in pretty good nick. Similarly to Fred (Christopher Lambert) in Luc Besson's Metro he too lives as an unusual stranger in the world of the underground - though Bulcsú makes no brilliant arrival in the opening sequence of the film - and manages to find the right tone with the other sub-creatures. His whole character is mere enigma and empathy. This hero who ,despite moving with familiarity in the passenger and working areas, is both homeless and reticent appears so contradictory that all the other figures who colour the story - according to the dramaturgy of Insurance - are eclipsed by him. They have been contracted as "controlling comedians" to fill in the blind spots and provide atmosphere.

While in Luc Besson's film made in 1985 each new person and adventure serves to diversify beyond the character of the hero the figures of supporting actors and present an increasingly colourful underground hierarchy, the work of Nimród Antal's is a one-man drama in which the force of the schizophrenic storyline firmly subordinates the real figures - be it enemies, friends or loves - to Bulcsú's double self.

In a Chunnel

We are witnesses to the fight between good and bad - the battling of the single mind of a inspector. The dark tunnels of the metro symbolise the convolutions of his brain. It is no surprise therefore that the hero is unable to get out into the sunlight and pass beyond his own thoughts. According to Jiři Menzel the greatest fault of television lies in broadcasting information as a one-way channel that opens no space for the multitude of interpretations. Similarly to TV Control leads the spectator along a single channel, a swift tunnel and, though the film's indispensable dynamism is owed also to the metro, the travelling viewer unfortunately gets no look outside the mind of the hero. The chief virtue of Besson's reference-value film is that it cannot be categorised within a genre. The audacity with which the director plays with the characters of the policemen, the metro-dwellers and bodyguards effaces the boundaries of good and bad and depicts the metro as an unfathomably intricate system. By positioning the inspectors at the centre, Antal entrusts a single brigade with the role of good (feeble but loveable) and bad (hunting for dodgers) and puts in the focal point a hero whose schizophrenia merely intensifies this duality. We see a condensed, one-way story at the end of which the film-makers have placed a point switch and we watch excitedly to see whether the train will finally take a left or right turn.


The schizophrenic hero and his deranged gang are the metaphors of post-communist Hungary. Despite numerous attempts no Hungarian commercial film has been able to come up with such a strong simile. We've seen CEOs tearing along in wonder cars, womanizing company directors and ministers turning into bank managers, but even Péter Gothár's Hungarian Beauty was unable to portray the insanity of society at large. Even if we tried to we wouldn't be able to find a better setting to illustrate the schizophrenia of Hungarian society. The scene of our public transport is an enclosed system frequented by both the fortunate and unfortunate individuals of society. The winners and losers of the change of regime scrum onto the same escalators and carriages and are forced to stare at each other during the journey because there's nothing to see from the windows - apart from one's self. The greatest recognition and lesson of Nimród Antal's film is that our own unstable mind is the mapping out of schizophrenic society; that we are all one and we travel and dodge together. Almost fifteen years after the change of regime the sense of justice of an average passenger dictates him to tell the inspector to "bugger off" when the latter, in accordance to market rules calls him to accountfor the countervalue of the provided service. The underground is the subconscious ghost train of post-communism and Control is the calling to account.

Bearing in Mind

Alfred Hitchcock said the following at a 1949 Hollywood press conference: "My aim has always been to give viewers a kind of a gratifying moral shock. Civilization today has become so secure that it is unable to satisfy our needs to shudder. That's why this shock has to be ensured artificially. This is the only way to relax, the only way to regain our moral equilibrium." Antal has borne in mind the words of the master of popular films and, although since September 11 the world is considered less safe, people, just as before, still want to shudder. Moral shudders are not the most popular community experience in Hungary. Control nevertheless takes on the task of confrontation and with the help of its routine in the language of films manages to force the bitter pill down the throat of a surprising number of viewers. For the sake of easier digestion the director parades the elements of numerous genres that dramaturgically serve to give a more varied portrayal of the principle hero's character. The elements of thrillers heighten the excitement of victory over the evil ego, the elements of comedy emphasise Bulcsú's silence, while the love story justifies poets who, according to Woody Allen recognise that there's no other consolation in life (Hannah and Sisters). Antal depicts an astonishing image of the world through the proportionate blending of elements from various genres. In spite of not being able to interpret his message without the odd hitch, he has made a creative film intended for the wide public.

(The pictures used were taken by Balázs Hujber and borrowed from the film's website - the editor)

181 Kbyte

153 Kbyte

123 Kbyte

34 Kbyte

98 Kbyte

56 Kbyte